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The Lost Series: Edmonton’s Lost Boomtown Hotels – Part 2


Hotel Cecil, 1914.
Glenbow Archives, NC-6-1045

 

Drawn by the lure of opportunity in Canada’s “last best west,” nearly 50,000 people came to Edmonton in the first dozen years of the 20th century and decided to call it their new home. The influx generated enormous demand for hotels and rooming houses, and the booming city’s first wood-frame hotels were soon joined by a second wave, and then a third.

Most of them are gone now, lost to the march of time. Here’s a look at three of the vanished ones built in 1906, a fifth that started welcoming guests in 1910, and another constructed in 1908 that rose from the ashes in 1932.

The Hotel Cecil, 1906

When the 37-room Hotel Cecil opened on October 1, 1906, the Edmonton Bulletin newspaper called it “one of the nicest and neatest in the country.” The three-storey hotel, at 10406 Jasper Avenue, was designed by noted local architect Roland Lines, who was later killed in World War I.

Lines clad it in brick with stone accents and its main entrance, originally located at the centre of the frontage, was flanked by double Ionic columns. The origin of the name Cecil is uncertain. The hotel was built by C.H. Belanger, who may well have been known as Cecil.

In 1909, Belanger hired Lines to design a 28-room addition to the north, with a ladies’ rotunda, private lounge room and 300-seat dining room. The $25,000 renovation, completed in 1910, brought the Cecil greater renown for its modern furnishings and exceptional service. Another reno in 1924 moved the entrance to the corner, and the brick was covered with wooden siding.

By the late 20th century, the once majestic little hotel languished and fell into disrepair and was closed for health violations. It was demolished in September 2005 to make way for a new grocery store development on the site.

King Edward Hotel, 1906

Designed by renowned Edmonton architect Herbert Alton Magoon, the King Edward Hotel was opened in November 1906 by businessman and alderman John Coleman Calhoun on land he had used for his livestock operation. Calhoun named the hotel at what became 10180- 101 Street after the reigning monarch of the day.

“The King Eddy,” as locals came to call it, promptly became a popular place to gather and partake in a libation or two – at least until prohibition came along. Calhoun completed expansions in 1908 and 1910, giving the hotel 110 rooms, the most of any hotel in Edmonton at the time.

Visiting dignitaries included Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who stayed at the King Edward in 1909. The hotel was renovated right after the Second World War, with new Moderne-style cream cladding, and its “100 rooms distinctively decorated and modernly appointed,” as a 1945 advertisement put it.

A three-storey, $300,000 addition designed by architect George Heath MacDonald was constructed in 1951, providing 27 more bedrooms and a penthouse. Another $250,000 expansion was completed in 1964, overseen by hotel manager John R. Calhoun, son of the original owner.

The King Eddy operated until it was gutted by a fire that claimed two lives on April 23, 1978. It was demolished in 1980 and replaced by the Manulife Building.

Castle/Lincoln Hotel, 1906

When it opened in the fall of 1906, the Castle Hotel lived up to its name with castle-like turrets and Victorian styling. The four-storey brick hotel at 10266 102 Street was built for about $20,000.

The Castle was purchased in May 1910 by prominent businessmen and hotelmen Joseph Hostyn and William Powell. The hotel boasted 70 “sleeping rooms” with call-bell service, writing and reception rooms, a lobby with upholstered chairs, a well-stocked bar and a sophisticated dining room. A pool room and barbershop were located in the basement.

Chestor (Tiny) and George Roberts, father and son, acquired the hotel in the depth of the Great Depression in 1933. They gutted and rebuilt the inside with separate beer parlours for men and women, yanked off the castle turrets, and changed the name to the Lincoln Hotel. More renovation work was carried out in the 1940s and 1954, with stucco applied over much of the original brick exterior except for the west side.

The building’s entire fourth floor was removed in the 1954 renovation, which cost the owners $200,000. That reduced the number of guest rooms to 51.

George finally sold the hotel in 1972, 39 years after the family bought it. The building was later acquired by Triple Five Corporation and demolished starting in June 1986 to make way for the Eaton’s Centre project.

Royal George Hotel, 1910

Abraham Cristall started the Royal George Hotel in 1910 in a business block he built at 10229 101 Street. Abraham and his wife Rebecca became Edmonton’s first Jewish settlers in the autumn of 1893.

The five-storey brick building was designed by Edmonton architects Hopkins and Wright in a traditional commercial style. The main floor was faced in stone over the brick. An electric elevator lifted guests to rooms fitted with telephones and hot and cold running water – a big deal for the time.

The 117-room Royal George was just down the street from the Grand Trunk Pacific and Canadian National Railways stations. It gained a reputation as one of the best values in the city and was a popular choice for northern travellers, trappers and traders.

Abraham operated the hotel until his death in 1944 and then the business passed on to his children George, Max, Ted, Rose and Jessie. The family sold it in 1965. The building was demolished in the autumn of 1972, along with the nearby courthouse and Woodward’s store, to make way for the sprawling new Edmonton Centre complex.

Corona Hotel, 1908/1932

The first Corona Hotel started life in 1908 as an apartment building with main floor businesses called the Wize Block. Owner and architect James Edward Wize drew the plans himself.

Three years later, Wize spent $50,000 to convert the three-storey building into the Corona Hotel. It opened in January 1912 with 115 guest rooms and a dining room that could seat 600 with tables, making it the largest banquet hall in Western Canada. An addition in 1911 extended the frontage to 109 feet and the depth to 150 feet.

A natural gas explosion in the basement of the building on the night of Sunday, February 21, 1932, triggered a fire that raged for seven hours and totally destroyed the hotel. A new $260,000 fire-resistant structure, four storeys high and with 125 rooms, was rebuilt starting that spring at 10637 Jasper Avenue under the guidance of James Wize’s son Leonard. The plans were drawn by local architects Herbert Alton Magoon and George Heath MacDonald.

A fifth storey containing 31 rooms and clad with gray stone relief panels was added in 1939. The Wize family sold the property in 1959, and the new owners built a commercial addition just west of the Corona the following year. An interior renovation was completed in 1968, the hotel was sold in 1979, and it was subsequently demolished in April 1981.

 

http://www.edmontonheritage.ca/go/herzog-on-heritage/the-lost-series-edmontons-lost-boomtown-hotels-part-2/

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